Playing in a tie game midway through the second half, junior Kentucky forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) took over, scoring 21 of her career-high 33 points in the second half to lead the Wildcats to an 87-66 win over Butler on Sunday in front of 4,014 fans in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (2-0), who demonstrated their dynamic up-tempo offense and tenacious full-court defense, received tremendous balance throughout the lineup by placing five players in double-figure scoring for the first time since accomplishing the feat against Miami (Ohio) on January 3, 2009.
“It was a very, very tough game today,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Butler is so well coached and they win a lot of games. They exploited some things defensively that I give them a lot of credit for doing. I think we can continue to get better and improve defensively.”
Dunlap became the first Wildcat to score 30 or more points since Samantha Mahoney tallied 31 points vs. James Madison on March 26, 2008. The last time a Kentucky player scored 33 points was on Dec. 20, 1987 when Bebe Croley turned in 40. Dunlap added a career-high 18 rebounds to notch her second straight and 15th career double-double, which moves her into sole possession of sixth place on UK’s all-time career double-double list.
Dunlap connected on 10-of-14 shots from the floor and made a career-high 13-of-15 free throws. She also added three blocks and two steals in 35 minutes of action, turning in one of the finest individual performances from a Wildcat in school history. Over her first two games this season, Dunlap is averaging 28.5 points per game.
“I am very proud of Victoria,” Mitchell said. “It was an incredible performance and, the thing about it is just the effort she gives and the leadership she is showing. It got super tough in that second half and she never let down. She just really battled and I am glad to see her hard work paying off.
“She has taken her responsibility of being the go-to player to a level that has exceeded my expectations. I wanted her to work into that role and she has done that. She has become a really special player through her effort and attitude. I still think that she can get better, which is the scary thing.”
For the first time since February 26, 2009, two Wildcats recorded double-doubles in the game, as senior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) scored 13 points and brought down a career-high 14 rebounds. Franklin extended her streak of consecutive free throws to 22, moving her into a tie for sixth place in school history in consecutive free-throws made. She surpassed her previous streak of 21 consecutive free throws, set last season. The school record for most consecutive free-throws made is 27 by Jenny Pfeiffer during the 2005-06 campaign.
Kentucky reached the 80-point plateau for the second time this season and is now averaging 89.5 points per game through two contests. The Wildcats are 253-19 (.930) since 1974 when scoring 80 or more points in a game.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 46.0 percent (29-of-63) from the floor and out-rebounded Butler 46-29. Kentucky forced 19 turnovers by the Bulldogs and scored 25 points off of those miscues. Each of UK’s eight players who saw action in the game scored at least two points.
Junior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) registered 10 points and dished out a season-high six assists. Sophomore guard Rebecca Gray (Georgetown, Ky.) added 10 points, including two crucial three-pointers in the second half. Freshman guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) hit the double-figure scoring mark for the second consecutive game, tallying 10 points.
Kentucky took a 43-34 advantage into the locker room at intermission, shooting a sizzling 51.5 percent (17-of-33). The Wildcats’ dynamic up-tempo offense resulted in 14 fast-break points and forced 10 turnovers by Butler, which shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from the field. UK held a 23-11 edge on the boards in the first period.
Butler opened the second half by whittling its deficit down to six, 46-40, after six points by the Bulldogs’ Susan Lester. A jumper by Dunlap at the 16:33 mark gave the Wildcats a 48-40 advantage, but Butler used back-to-back baskets by Terra Burns in a span of 1:07 to cut within four, 48-44. With the Bulldogs down by six, 50-44, Butler used an 8-2 run that was capped off by six points from Alyssa Pittman that knotted the score at 52 with 12:17 remaining.
The two teams kept battling, but three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, including two by Gray, extended UK’s lead back out to eight, 63-55, with 10:08 left. Gray’s two treys were the beginning of a 12-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead 69-55 with 8:31 remaining in the game. Butler got no closer than nine points the rest of the way and Kentucky widened its margin to the largest of the game at 21 to make the final score.
Butler (0-1) was led by sophomore guard Brittany Bowen’s team-high 16 points.